I saw a shad fish shagging out of Bayou Liberty the other day and wondered if he was trying to avoid an encounter with the resident top predator, an American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) named “Albert.” He may be “King of the Bayou” but you couldn’t normally tell by looking at him because usually looks just like a floating log.
Funny thing about how differently people react to the presence of ‘gators. Some live in mortal fear of them, some want to feed them. Either response can result in the ‘gator’s early demise or removal. It does not have to be so.
Millions of alligators inhabit the swamps and marshes of the Gulf Coast states, particularly Louisiana and Florida, where the scaly beast is a colorful part of the lore. Although the Bayou State contains twice as many wild gators, the Sunshine State can claim one dark statistic we cannot – there have been twenty-one human deaths by alligator recorded there and none in Louisiana. Part of the problem is that Florida simply has many more humans, a disproportionate number living where ‘gators live and they tend to recreate in the state’s plentiful fresh water lakes. It could also be our coastal people are more rural, familiar with and respectful of the reptile. The situation in Florida seems like a good argument against building subdivisions in wildlife habitat. Unfortunately, all this has helped give the beast a fearsome, and undeserved national reputation.
WARNING: DO NOT FEED ALLIGATORS
An un-fed, wild alligator will remain wild and leave people alone. They have plenty to eat in nature, especially with all the fish in Bayou Liberty, and are naturally scared of people. An alligator would rather swim away and hide that confront a big, old dangerous human. But alligators who are fed by humans may think “food” when they see people. These ‘gators can become a nuisance and must be removed or killed. We want Albert to stay just where he is because he is part of the natural cycle of life in our Nature Park and so we don’t feed him and won’t let anyone else even try. By the way, an even bigger ‘gator cruised up the bayou the other day, apparently to come a courtin’. I think “Albert” may be an “Albertina.”